With some insights from social science research, I will try to outline a few conditions that push and pull youth towards the Islamic State so that we might get a better handle on what might move them away. None of the IS fighters we interviewed in Iraq had more than primary school education, some had wives and young children. When asked “what is Islam?” they answered “my life.” In Europe and elsewhere in the Muslim diaspora the enlistment pattern is different: about 3 out of every 4 people who join Al Qaeda or IS do so through friends, most of the rest through family or fellow travellers in search of a meaningful path in life. Most foreign volunteers and supporters are youth in transitional stages in their lives: students, immigrants, between jobs or mates, having left or about to leave their native family and looking for a new family of friends and fellow travellers with whom they can find significance.
About the Speaker:
Professor Scott Atran, PhD, received his BA and PhD in anthropology from Columbia University. He is currently Research Director of ARTIS International, Research Professor and Presidential Scholar, Center on Terrorism, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and Visiting Professor of Psychology and Public Policy at the University of Michigan. He is tenured as Research Director in Anthropology at France’s National Center for Scientific Research in Paris, and he is also Senior Fellow and co-founder of the Centre for the Resolution of Intractable Conflicts at Harris Manchester College and the Centre for International Studies, University of Oxford. He has repeatedly briefed NATO and members of the U.S. Congress and the National Security Council staff at the White House. He has worked with the UN Security Council on problems relating to youth and violent extremism and he has been engaged in conflict negotiations in the Middle East.